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93 Foreign Aff. 60 (2014)
As Objects Go Online; The Promise (and Pitfalls) of the Internet of Things

handle is hein.journals/fora93 and id is 326 raw text is: As Objects Go Online
The Promise (and Pitfalls) of the Internet
of Things
Neil Gershenfeld andJP Vasseur
Since 1969, when the first bit of data was transmitted over what
would come to be known as the Internet, that global network has
evolved from linking mainframe computers to connecting per-
sonal computers and now mobile devices. By 2010, the number of com-
puters on the Internet had surpassed the number of people on earth.
Yet that impressive growth is about to be overshadowed as the things
around us start going online as well, part of what is called the Internet
of Things. Thanks to advances in circuits and software, it is now pos-
sible to make a Web server that fits on (or in) a fingertip for $1. When
embedded in everyday objects, these small computers can send and re-
ceive information via the Internet so that a coffeemaker can turn on
when a person gets out of bed and turn off when a cup is loaded into a
dishwasher, a stoplight can communicate with roads to route cars around
traffic, a building can operate more efficiently by knowing where people
are and what they're doing, and even the health of the whole planet can
be monitored in real time by aggregating the data from all such devices.
Linking the digital and physical worlds in these ways will have
profound implications for both. But this future won't be realized unless
the Internet of Things learns from the history of the Internet. The
open standards and decentralized design of the Internet won out over
competing proprietary systems and centralized control by offering
fewer obstacles to innovation and growth. This battle has resurfaced
with the proliferation of conflicting visions of how devices should
communicate. The challenge is primarily organizational, rather then
technological, a contest between command-and-control technology
NEIL GERSHENFELD is a Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and
directs MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms.
JP VASSEUR is a Cisco Fellow and Chief Architect of the Internet of Things at Cisco Systems.


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